I remember so well the first time I heard Kreator back in the late 80’s / early 90’s. I had heard OF them before, they showed up in all the hard rock and metal magazines I used to read back then, but since I was never a thrash metal fan I never gave them the time of day – I knew it would be a waste of time for me. But Headbanger’s Ball Europe – fronted by the brilliant VJ Vanessa Warwick – played their video of “Betrayer” (Extreme Aggression, 1989) and the jaws of your truly dropped to the floor. Not in a positive way, I might add. As I said, as a sucker for melodic hard rock, hard rock, AOR and heavy metal with no regards for thrash metal what so ever, I wondered if someone was playing me, if this was some kind of joke because I couldn’t find anything in that song that was even close to a melody and song structure. Even when my tastes had been stretched and I had taken a liking to stuff like Metallica and Megadeth, I couldn’t understand what was so good about Kreator. But that was then and for the last 15 years or so, I have taken a liking for harder stuff like Slayer and Testament and even more extreme acts like Dimmu Borgir and Watain. Still, that “Betrayer” video has stuck in my mind which has made me ignoring Kreator totally. Until now. Why? Well, let’s just say that for their brand new record – their 14th – there has been lots of big talk – some of that came from people I wouldn’t have expected liking Kreator – so I just had to check out their video for the title track of this album and it got me interested in, if not the band as such, then at least this album.
Kreator were born as Tyrant in Hessen, Germany in 1982 by lead vocalist and guitarist Mille Petrozza, drummer Jürgen “Ventor” Reli and bassist Rob Fioretti and their debut album, Endless Pain – now under the Kreator moniker – hit the shelves back in 1984 and the band recruited a big following among thrash fans right off the bat. Since then, lots of members has come and gone with Petrozza and Ventor keeping the flame alive until this day. Since I have pretty much no knowledge of this band’s musical journeys throughout the years – I have never listened to one Kreator album back to back in my entire life – I really don’t have anything to compare this record with but reading articles concerning this album, it stands pretty clear that many has the opinion that Kreator lost the plot on some of their mid-career albums which means that this album is pretty much one of their later records that has put them back where they belong style-wise.
The one minute long opening intro “Apocalypticon” has a somewhat creepy atmosphere that brings up a dark and saturnine evil vibe and this intro sure does its job. The malevolent “World War Now” kicks off furiously and it is a fast, aggressive and heavy thrasher that goes directly for the throat. Still in the mist of this metal mayhem lies a surprisingly catchy chorus and the atmospheric middle break brings a good dose of variation – bloody awesome. “Satan Is Real” comes in a more mid-paced tempo, but it do include some blasting bass drums. At the same time, the almost chanting chorus is impossible to get out the head once it’s there. I have no problem imagining av huge crowd going off on that chorus. “Totalitarian Terror” is ferocious and fast, hard hitting and brutal and I guess this is how it feels like being ran over by freight train. But again, on top of all that merciless thrash lies a plethora of melodies that are almost hummable. It’s a damn art form to manage to mix those two without going all schizophrenic on us – amazing! “We shall KILL!” chants Petrozza in the melodic thrash mayhem that is the title track. The spellbinding and somewhat soft intro creates a dark atmosphere to the hard-edged riff feast and when the chorus kicks in you’re stuck with it forever – the catchiness is conspicuous.
“Army Of Hordes” hits with the heaviness of a ton of bricks. It’s actually more of a heavy metal song than a thrash dito, but it’s hard and aggressive, but with a brilliant melody and a big groove. The viking-esque “Hail To The Hordes” is a big, fat thrasher with a mold breaking Celtic feel which takes the band outside of the box in a positive way. The chorus strikes hard and catchy and it’s impossible not to surrender to the in-your-face groove. “Lion With Eagle Wings” brings along a big, rowdy rhythm, some killer guitar harmonies that brings a Thin Lizzy goes thrash vibe and a damn sticky melody throughout the song and the whole thing explodes in the refrain from Hell – melodic aggression with a punch! The basic rhythm in “Fallen Brother” is almost Slayer-like but the song has a belting groove beyond that and the chorus is so powerful it knocks you down for the count right away and there’s no way to escape the comprehensive clout. Hell Yeah! “Side By Side” is another killer. With a fist in face thrash groove and a chorus so catchy it’s ridiculous, it grabs you by the balls and never lets go. There’s a soft ballad-like middle section as well which gives some breathing room – a brilliant move. The album ends with the seven and a half minute epic “Death Becomes My Light”. The song starts out in a soft mode and slow pace complete with a clean vocal but the angst ridden thrash metal soon kicks off and brings out some damn fine melodic thrash metal. The pace slows down again towards the end and the heavy darkness off both melody and riff takes a peek into black metal land. There is also an element of blues in the riffs – how’s that for diversity? What a fantastic way to end a record like this.
I’m floored! Completely floored! My jaw dropped this time as well but with this album it’s all positive. I had to check out a couple of old videos by the band while writing this review and I can’t say I like what I heard – it sounded more fierce and not as melodic as the music on this album – too noisy, therefore I’m a bit curious of how this album will go down among the Kreator fans who were there from the beginning. I know that die-hard thrash and speed metal fans has a tendency to be somewhat conservative when it comes to their favorite bands and maybe they will dislike this album for not being brutal enough and / or too melodic and mawkish? Be that as it may, in my humble opinion, this album is nothing but bloody fantastic and I just can’t stop listening to it. If there are any other Kreator albums that are style wise similar to this, please let me know.
2. World War Now
3. Satan Is Real
4. Totalitarian Terror
5. Gods Of Violence
6. Army Of Storms
7. Hail To The Hordes
8. Lion With Eagle Wings
9. Fallen Brother
10. Side By Side
11. Death Becomes My Light